Home Prairie and Wetland Center
16245 S US Hwy 71
Belton, MO 64012
Tel: (816) 331-9738
Fax: (816) 331-9739

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have a question about one of our products or how to use native plants effectively? We've developed a list of commonly asked questions and answers and categorized them so you can quickly find the information you need. If you don't find the answer to your question, please refer to the Resources section of our website or contact us at info@critsite.com.

This is the description for this category.

Do natives attract vermin?

That answer depends on what you call vermin! Natives attract hummingbirds and butterflies which come to take nectar from flowers. Many fruit bearing trees and shrubs attract songbirds and game birds that come to eat berries and fruit in the summer, fall and winter. Native plants also provide protective cover and nesting sites for a wide variety of wildlife. As you add a variety of native plants to your landscape, you'll actually create a small ecosystem which will bring in additional species of wildlife to balance each other. So yes, natives do attract a wonderful array of watchable wildlife that adds interest to our lives.

Why do native plants require less water than non-native plants?

Natives have incredible root systems that support the plants in times of drought. Compared to the roots of most non-natives, warm season grasses and flowers have a deep, extensive root system which helps absorb moisture and prevent erosion. Many species of prairie plants have roots that extend between four and eight feet into the soil while cool season non-native grasses such as Kentucky blue grass and smooth brome only extend a few inches into the soil. This helps them withstand long periods of dry weather and so require little or no watering after they are established.

*Recent research also suggests that a beneficial fungus called arbuscular micorrhizae plays an important role in prairie plant root development. The fungi live in the top few inches of soil and send projections that provide nutrients from the topsoil into the upper roots. For prairie plants with deep tap roots, the fungal growth greatly increases the roots' surface area just below the surface of the soil, allowing plants to concentrate on deep growth.
*Adapted from The Nov./Dec. 2002 Wild Ones Journal.

Aren't native plants weedy?

As in all landscape situations, matching the right plants to a given set of conditions is the key to a successful planting. In some cases, such as a 10-acre reconstructed prairie, you may want to use plants that tend to spread energetically by seed or underground rhizomes. This will help the planting become denser at a quicker rate and lower cost than non-spreading plants. However, in smaller landscape situations, it is important to select plants that don't spread but grow as distinct individual clumps so they don't invade space belonging to other plants.

Some sun loving prairie plants become "weedy" when they are grown in soil that is too fertile and rich in organic matter. Rich soil causes prairie grasses and flowers to grow too tall and fall over. For this reason, you generally don't want to fertilize the soil before planting sun loving grasses and forbs. Most native plants that grow in the shade such as ferns and Celandine poppy do need organic matter added to the soil because they are accustomed to growing in richer forest soils.

What is a native plant?

A native plant is one that originated in in an area and was not introduced. Unlike plants that came to our area with civilization, such as Chicory or Queen Anne's Lace, native plants existed in an area prior to the arrival of settlers.

Why should I use native plants?

Native plants, especially local-source natives, offer the gardener beauty, resilience and the opportunity to do something positive for the environment. Native plants have adapted over tens of thousands of years to survive and thrive in our climate so they require less maintenance are less prone to destructive insects and disease, and come back year after year. They also have evolved along with our wildlife, providing needed food, cover and habitat. And with well over 2,000 Midwestern species, you can increase the diversity and uniqueness of your landscape.